The Christian Humanist on the past in your fate
The double meaning of “the past” is the key: on one hand, the life of the agora in Socrates’s Athens is not meaningfully part of anyone’s having-been existence in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries. On the other, people living even in 2012 have ready-to-hand translations of Plato, can behold as present-at-hand the ruins of ancient Athens, and might even learn enough Attic Greek to make it part of our equipment for thinking. So even as the molecules in the marble in Greek temples’ columns persist (some of them anyway), the continuities that actually mean something to Dasein are still rooted in our being. Such is not to say that there are no objective columns or even that human beings cannot say anything about objective columns; it is to say that any statements about the columns will necessarily be framed by the particular beings of those human beings saying something about them.
Although the columns, I imagine, are something to behold (I’ve never been), questions with some more pertinence for us Christians have to do with traditioned communities, and Heidegger has something to say about them. Everyone, maintains Heidegger, because we are thrown onto existence, is part of some kind of “handing down” of custom and tradition, and most people, he maintains (sounding like Kierkegaard), live among those traditions for the most part accidentally. In other words, everyone faces the changes and events of fortune, but most people, because they do not face the particulars of those events resolutely, ”can ‘have’ no fate” (436).